September 13, 2012 / Benjamin Chodoroff

Exploring "meshaging"

Over the past few years, The Work Department has been active in building community wireless networks in Detroit. We have experimented with different types of hardware and software, and we have helped neighborhoods build useful networks to share internet connectivity and provide local file sharing. Something we haven’t had much of an opportunity to explore, though, is building more elaborate systems that leverage the unique traits of mesh networks.

August 2, 2012 / Nina Bianchi and Benjamin Chodoroff

Crafting the AMC 2012 conference infrastructure

Each year the Allied Media Conference has more attendees and more content than the previous year. This is great, except it means that the information gets more complicated to sort through. That’s where we come in. For 2012, we wanted to address a few issues we had noticed from previous conferences. For example, we wanted every printed and online piece of content to have a consistent look and feel. We wanted the web component to work better, offer easier ways to drill down, and offer easy ways to bookmark sessions. Last year, an overall printed schedule matrix wasn’t produced -- though it had been in other years. We thought the matrix was a huge asset for attendees, and we wanted to produce that again this year.

July 17, 2012 / Nina Bianchi

Creating collaborative landscapes: AMC 2012 visual identity

We view the Allied Media Conference as an energetic network of self-contained, radical processes. Each year, these elements combine and remix to generate inspirational and multidimensional landscapes where individuals and communities work toward building more just and creative worlds.

Our approach to the design and development for the ACM 2012 visual identity was deeply inspired by connection, transformation and participatory design. We set out with the goal to create a kinetic “kit of parts” that could be consistently utilized throughout all of the conference communication vehicles — whether a website, sticker, environmental sign or printed program. Through this work, we facilitated a collaborative design process that builds on the conference’s rich visual history and creates a platform for a library of unique visual language and co-design processes.

June 25, 2012 / Michael Gregor

Coming soon to a browser near you: the Allied365 resources catalog

We're so excited about this project that I had to spend a little time telling you about it (even before it launches)! Later this week, we will launch the Allied365 catalog in collaboration with Allied Media Projects. This new website will allow organizers and activists around the globe to connect with knowledge and resources that are relevant to their work. Allied365 -- a new piece of AMP's online infrastructure -- will focus on organizations who attend the Allied Media Conference or are otherwise involved with AMP's mission to create media strategies for a more just and creative world. Organizations will be able to create a profile (and edit as necessary) and then post "offerings" to the community. Think of a curated business directory, except created by and for a movement.

June 21, 2012 / Libby Cole

I'm dreaming of a beautiful user interface

We recently had the opportunity to design prototypes for Commotion, which is a software project that helps people create community wireless networks. We referred to this complicated but exciting project as "the Dream UI," since it was an opportunity to include all of the design ideas we had been dreaming of including. We had already created a brand for the project, so our goal was to combine that with a simple, streamlined process to setup (or join) a wireless mesh network. Our secondary goal was to include an integrated, educational component for first-time users to become more accustomed to the vernacular and process but not alienate advanced users at the same time. Here's an excerpt from our report about the dream UI we created for Commotion.

May 28, 2012 / Nina Bianchi and Libby Cole

Integrating design and development to shape Commotion’s brand identity

At The Work Department, we’ve had the privilege of creating Commotion’s brand identity from conception to completion. If you haven’t heard about it yet, Commotion is an open, yet secure, circumvention tool to create decentralized mesh networks. We are collaboratively developing the tool with The New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative. Our challenge was clear: to create an accessible and flexible visual identity for this evolving open source software project. Our early approach was very open – we began with a discovery phase in which we surveyed the Open Technology Initiative (OTI), The Guardian Project, The Serval Project and a few other members of the mesh development community to understand their views on the software. We quickly found a wide range of opinions about aesthetic preferences and public communication strategies for Commotion. We analyzed input from about 15 people and shared the material with OTI to get additional feedback.

May 8, 2012 / Michael Gregor

Building neighborhood networks

As part of our research for the Commotion Human Interface Guidelines, we interviewed four people who have been involved in building community wireless networks around Detroit. Based on these interviews and our experience working with various users, we recommend that Commotion developers and organizers implement the following concepts:

April 25, 2012 / Benjamin Chodoroff

The making of

When we first started talking about creating a Work Department blog, a simple vision came into mind: the expected featureset is pretty well-defined at this point, and even though the term itself might be falling by the wayside, most visitors know what to expect out of a blog. So we got busy: Nina started drafting some posts, Libby came up with a nice style to match our regular 'ol web presence, and I began to tinker with a Drupal 7 install. After getting the basics all set up, I soon became bored and my mind started wandering around the screen... what could make this more exciting... hmm... how about a user-modifiable array of our runes?

April 3, 2012 / Nina Bianchi

Overhauling the Allied Media Projects homepage

Most people associate the Allied Media Projects organization with the annual Allied Media Conference. To some extent, that makes sense because prior to the formation of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition in 2009 and the subsequent launch of the Detroit Future media training programs, AMP’s primary focus was organizing the conference. Through the launch of Detroit Future, AMP has grown its vision and successfully built out a range of new programs which seem to be evolving on a daily basis. At the same time, the process of the presenting the Allied Media Conference has become a year-round collaborative organizing process, engaging dozens of coordinators from across North America in presenting tracks and sessions, network gatherings, and practice spaces. Over 2,000 participants are expected for the 2012 AMC.

March 10, 2012 / Nina Bianchi

Detroit as an example

Detroit is what the rest of the world has to look forward to. In Detroit we are growing a community of media makers, culture producers, technologists, and small business owners who are building a media-based economy at the city's grassroots. We believe that instead of trying to "bridge the digital divide" between our communities and existing technology, it is more important to reshape technology to meet our communities' needs. Join Allied Media Projects staff and the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition members, Janel Yamashiro, Diana J. Nucera and Nina Bianchi to discuss theories and practices of building just, creative and collaborative cities, with a focus on the role of artists and technologists.

March 1, 2012 / Nina Bianchi

openFrameworks + Detroit + The Work Department + Collaboration = Awesomeness

In February, The Work Department co-sponsored the Technology, Collaboration, Community, and Change event with Emergence Media, rootoftwo, ArtServe Michigan, Allied Media Projects, MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit) and the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition. The event series was ignited by the openFrameworks conference which was also co-hosted by the The Work Department and OmniCorpDetroit. We had some nice media coverage from the Knight Foundation here and Michigan Public Radio produced a fantastic radio story here.